KICKING THE CAN
It’s time to deal with North Korea
“Kicking the can down the road” is to put off confronting a difficult issue or making an important decision, typically on a continuing basis. Basically, it’s postponing the inevitable. It’s one of the reasons our elected officials won’t fix anything, and why they haven’t fixed Medicare or Social Security. Or tax reform and illegal immigration. Or education.
And, it turns out, “kicking the can down the road” is also how North Korea developed the capability to produce a nuclear blast twice that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.
You see, it was President Bill Clinton who cleared the way for North Korea to go nuclear in 1994 by offering them oil, in return for them abandoning the production of plutonium, which is a key ingredient in nuclear weapons. President Clinton said, at the time, the agreement represents "an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula." But soon afterwards, North Korea would be cheating on that agreement by developing highly enriched uranium, and the Clinton administration ended up “kicking the can” to the next president.
That’s when President George W. Bush reneged on the oil reserves Clinton had promised to North Korea, but by then, the nuclear genie was already out of the bottle.
North Korea now had little incentive to negotiate away its storehouse of plutonium or to stop enriching uranium, and the can was “kicked” to the next president, again.
By the time President Barack Obama was elected, he was implementing his self-styled “strategic patience” policy (or “do nothing” policy) with regards to North Korea, even after learning from U.S. intelligence sources in 2013 that North Korea was capable of constructing miniaturized nuclear weapons that could be used as warheads for missiles. Still, Obama said he did not believe that North Korea could make a nuclear weapon small enough to fit atop a missile.
That ended up being a miscalculation on his part, and he ended up “kicking the can,” too.
So now, here we are with President Donald Trump. Knowing this path from 1994 to 2017 helps explain why Trump said last month that the United States would unleash on North Korea its “fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” You see, Trump realizes, he has no place to “kick the can,” and has to fix this right now.
Of course, liberals nearly had a conniption fit when he started talking tough about North Korea. They said this proves he is mentally unfit, or is otherwise suffering from a personality disorder of some kind. This makes it plain, they argue, that he does not take the advice of experts because he makes brash statements without regard to official State Department protocol. Some even say the White House is guided “based what side of the bed Trump got up on in the morning.”
Of course, compared to folks like Bill, Hillary, Barack and Bernie, who all feel that climate change is the greatest threat facing America, it’s hard for liberals to see Trump’s hawkish comments as anything other than being completely off the rails.
But what is Trump’s alternative, really?
By doing nothing, or continuing Obama’s “strategic patience” policy, we can lose everything – including our country. And yet, many Americans condemn Trump’s strong words as being the language of a right-wing loon – they’re afraid of being politically incorrect.
Yet we have terrorism around the world. Iran is moving ever closer to nuclear capability and is a state-sponsor of terrorism. Russia is aligning itself with North Korea, along with anyone who thumbs their nose at the United States. And China is modernizing its weapons with fighter jets, developing hypersonic missiles and building ballistic missile submarines.
Plus, our own nation’s borders are so porous that even the U.S. Border Patrol admits that they don’t know who is coming across the border, or whether they wish us well or ill.
And yet, we have folks worried about Trump’s strong words for Kim Jung Un.
The bottom line is that the strong words from this president, whether about North Korea or any other matter, reflect his conviction that we can no longer “kick the can.” We’re at the end of our road, and without decisive action from this president, we’re going to end up with more than just a stubbed toe.
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman and attorney. He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.